CFR invited the presidential candidates challenging President Trump in the 2020 election to articulate their positions on twelve critical foreign policy issues. Candidates’ answers are posted exactly as they are received. View all questions here.
1. How, if at all, should China’s treatment of the Uighurs and the situation in Hong Kong affect broader U.S. policy toward China?
Protecting human rights must be a central tenet of our foreign policy and that means protecting persecuted religious and ethnic minorities and preventing genocides. If I am president, whenever the United States meets with China, human rights will be a focus of the conversation.
I am deeply disturbed by the human rights abuses happening in China's Xinjiang region and support putting companies that build the detention camps there and their surveillance systems on the Commerce Department's Entity List, in addition to using the Global Magnitsky Act to sanction the people involved with the detention camps.
I am also a co-sponsor of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which requires a series of reports on China’s treatment of the Uighars, including from the State Department and the Director of National Intelligence, that would be used to determine whether certain individuals meet the criteria for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
As president I will also insist that China honor the commitments it has made for the autonomy of Hong Kong, and will be a voice for the people of Hong Kong and their ability to organize and express their opinions.
2. Would you rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)? What changes to the existing agreement, if any, would you require before agreeing to rejoin the accord?
It was a serious mistake for President Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and I never would have done it. The JCPOA brought transparency into Iran’s nuclear program and pushed back a nuclear breakout by at least 10 years. Without an agreement, Iran is now able to rapidly enrich uranium and drastically reduce the time it would take for them to produce a nuclear weapon.
While I strongly support a nuclear deal with Iran, we cannot turn back the clock and pretend the damage that President Trump has caused over the last 3 years hasn’t happened. The 2015 deal was premised on continued negotiations with the Iranians so that we could work towards a longer-term solution. We will have had four years wasted under Trump, and the sunset clauses, after which key provisions will phase out, are now that much closer. We must take stock of facts on the ground, including Iran’s recent breach of its enrichment limit, and negotiate an updated agreement to stop the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
3. Would you sign an agreement with North Korea that entailed partial sanctions relief in exchange for some dismantling of its nuclear weapons program but not full denuclearization?
Our goal has to be the full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. A nuclear North Korea is among our greatest national security threats and we must use every tool available to pursue peaceful denuclearization. I would work closely with our allies to develop and execute a thoughtful strategy to denuclearize the peninsula and address international concerns with the DPRK’s missile program and proliferation activities.
4. What, if any, steps would you take to counter Russian aggression against Ukraine?
When it comes to Russian aggression, let's be clear: the Russians are not just attacking Ukraine, or the U.S.--they are trying to undermine democracy. They are attempting to create divisions and divisiveness between individual leaders as well as within nations, and that's unacceptable. The Trump Administration has looked the other way in the face of Russian aggression, whether that aggression is against Ukraine, which I visited and witnessed first-hand, or an attack on the integrity of our elections.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee I signed a letter affirming Ukraine’s sovereignty, and voted to disapprove of President Trump’s decision to end sanctions on companies connected to Russian oligarchs. I support increasing the use of the Global Magnitsky sanctions and other tools to assert pressure on Russia into cooperation with the global community. We also need to mend our relationship with our transatlantic allies and NATO, which President Trump’s has undermined. I would seek to repair any doubts about the U.S. commitment to its allies and partners in NATO.
5. Would you commit to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of your first term, or would you require certain conditions be met before doing so?
We have been in Afghanistan for far too long, and I am determined to bring our troops home as quickly as possible. As soon as I become President, I will immediately begin a process to bring our troops home while ensuring that Afghanistan won’t again become a safe haven for launching attacks against the U.S.
6. Given the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the civil war in Yemen, what changes, if any, would you make to U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia?
The killing of Jamal Khashoggi was a stark reminder of the human rights violations perpetuated by the highest levels of leadership in Saudi Arabia. Despite the international condemnation for the murder of Khashoggi, the most senior officials implicated remain free, and the Saudi government has doubled down on its repressive tactics. The Saudi-led coalition's indiscriminate bombing and unlawful blockading of essential goods to Yemen's civilian population has created a humanitarian disaster. Despite this record and repeated opposition from Congress, the Trump Administration continues to sell weapons to the Saudis that can be used in Yemen against innocent civilians.
We must be a nation that leads with our values. We need a reset in our relationship with Saudi Arabia, starting with an end to U.S. arms sales and transfer of nuclear technology. I have voted to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia over human rights abuses and killings of innocent civilians in Yemen. We must also continue to push for accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi through a legitimate investigation and sanctions on those responsible for his death.
7. Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, if so, how would you go about trying to achieve it?
I support a two-state solution because I believe in justice and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestineans. As President of the United States, I will be committed to finding a two-state solution to the conflict so that both Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace with dignity and security.
8. What, if any, additional steps should the United States take to remove Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela?
Nicolas Maduro lacks the legitimacy to govern, and I have publicly stated that he should step down for the good of his people. However, we cannot simply anoint a new Venezuelan government -- that would be repeating the mistakes of our dark history in the region.
I support imposing sanctions on Maduro and his top officials for corruption and human rights violations committed against their own people. We should also engage closely with our partners in the region to pursue a diplomatic, negotiated settlement, including by working with a transitional government in Venezuela that can lead to peaceful elections and a return to democratic norms and stability.
9. By 2050, Africa will account for 25 percent of the world’s population according to projections by the United Nations. What are the implications of this demographic change for the United States, and how should we adjust our policies to anticipate them?
As the Ranking Member of the Africa Subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have had a chance to see first hand the U.S.-Africa relationship’s importance to our future. Africa is the epicenter of the youth bulge - its population is projected to double by 2050, and already, almost 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30. The U.S. has an interest in a stable, prosperous Africa that is able to meet its governance goals with an economic environment that attracts U.S. companies and creates the good jobs that are needed for the millions of young Africans who will enter the workforce every year. We need to allocate more resources at the State Department and USAID to focus on Africa and develop and execute strategies to reduce poverty, improve quality of life, and strengthen democratic institutions.
10. Under what circumstances, if any, would you support the United States joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), formerly the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
I voted against fast-track authority and opposed the TPP because it put large corporations before workers, and would have led to the further decline of U.S. manufacturing. I will only support a trade deal that, at its core, is focused on advancing the American worker and working families--creating jobs, lifting wages, and boosting environmental standards.
11. How would you discourage the proliferation of coal-fired power plants in developing countries?
The infrastructure of the 21st century must move toward renewable and clean energy. There are a number of levers we should use to discourage the proliferation of coal-fired power plants around the world, including starving financing for coal-fired projects through our voting power in international financing institutions; pressuring our friends and allies to halt the exporting of coal-fired plants; increasing funding for renewable energy projects and clean development; and encouraging smart grid build-outs and better energy standards across the developing world to reduce demand for coal-fired power plants. If I am president, the United States will lead, not only by example and in a way that ensures a just transition for workers in impacted communities, but through affirmative steps to encourage action across the globe.
12. What has been the greatest foreign policy accomplishment of the United States since World War II? What has been the biggest mistake?
Since World War II, the U.S. has supported the peaceful spread of democracy around the world, starting with the Marshall Plan to ease the suffering of a war-devastated continent, and through the end of the Cold War by empowering democratic governments in Eastern Europe. The U.S. is safer and the world more stable when there are more democracies and people have a voice in how they are governed.
At the same time, past leaders have also made mistakes. The consequences of the war in Iraq have been staggering--taking thousands of lives and costing trillions of dollars, all while making our country and the region less secure. And we cannot assess the full impact of the ill-fated decision without also considering the opportunity cost: the Iraq War has undoubtedly undermined our ability to effectively address many of the massive challenges of the 21st century--from climate change to technological advancement to inequality.